Why copyright infringement acts show selfishness

Before you read what I've written, I have to make one thing clear: I am by no means pro-piracy. I am only uttering my opinion about what has happened lately on the Internet and am by no means favoring any side involved in this matter.

The shut down of the infamous Megaupload by officials shocked all internet users. Who ever expected that after almost a decade serving the people of the world the benefit of file hosting sites, concrete legal measures have "finally" been taken. "Finally".

While many artists, producers, labels and companies triumph over the first measures against piracy and copyright infringement, I think there is a unanimous response coming from most of the world's Internet users: "Oh sh*t, I'm gonna have to buy CDs again!"

Well, not that buying CDs is a shameful act; in fact, it is the simplest and most appropriate way to show appreciation to artists and their creation. But the truth is, humans are naturally driven by the simple logic that "what's free is always better". I cannot disagree that, on one side, sites like Megaupload have a significant impact on the users' wallets. And by all means, shutting down such file sharing sites due to copyright infringements and the sake of artists is a completely valid reason. Yet, considering the lack of other web services that are supposed to substitute the position of these file sharing sites, I say that what the officials have done is selfish and hasty.

Frankly speaking, downloading files from the Internet has more impacts on us than merely saving our pockets. It is understandable that people harness the Internet simply because of the economic benefits it provides. Unfortunately, most of us often neglect the cultural impact we also gain from having access to such multimedia contents. Many of us do not realize that using file hosts is not just about sharing files; it is about sharing knowledge and building communities as well. It can not be based on getting stuff for free; it can also be based on spreading ideas, concepts, messages and inspiration through those files. And, more importantly, it is about the equality of access - that no matter who you are, where you live, how much money you have, you can still know, learn and be inspired.

The artist might have lost $9.99 he deserves, but he should remember that someone going to a concert - because he downloaded the artist's songs from Megaupload and likes it so much - pays five to ten times the price the artist lost. And which artist does not like to be mentioned by his fans - even though they downloaded his songs online - that he has become their inspiration, prevented them from suicide and helped them continue life? Isn't that supposed to be every artist's goal - to create and inspire? (Or has it changed to "to create and sell"?)

Just recently, I found out about a British band called The Vaccines. I heard their sampler online and was very eager to get my hands on their recording, as they seem to be the type of music I listen to. The Vaccines' first album did not come out that long ago - it was released in 2011. But when I tried to find them in the local CD stores in my country, none of them provided the album. So what should I do? I had these options:

  1. Buy their digital recording from online music stores, like iTunes.
  2. Buy their CD from online stores, like Amazon.

If you live in North America or Europe, either one of these options might solve the problem. But I live in Southeast Asia. iTunes Store is not available in my region (in my region, Apple provides the App Store only, not their actual iTunes music store ~ and I still wonder why). Amazon does not have a franchise in my region, which forces me to buy either from the US, Europe or the Japanese store, where they will charge me a shipping fee twice the price of the CD itself. Now, only because I live in Southeast Asia, does that mean I cannot have the chance to know The Vaccines, like The Vaccines and be inspired by The Vaccines? This sounds pretty unfair to me. If I were coming from a rich family, paying double the price for the album from Amazon would not be such a big deal. But what if I am not that rich? So buying would not be an option to me. Fine. People would argue that there are sites that lets me stream songs and movies for free. Guess what, Vevo and Hulu are not available in my country either!

In these situations, file sharing sites can come to rescue. Many people have shown their intentions to appreciate the artist and buy their music or movie, but there are simply no services that allows you to do so. So why blame them for using file sharing sites? And once the last option that remains is taken away as well - are we humans not creating an even bigger social gap between the rich and the poor, the developed and developing country, the knowledgable and the stupid?

Things would be different if services like iTunes, Amazon, Vevo, Hulu and others are available in each and every country in the world - or at least domestic companies have started to invest in the similar field. People cannot expect a local CD store to provide every single album that has been recorded in the world - just like you cannot expect a store in Brazil to have Indian movies. But online stores and streaming sites, they can easily provide everything from anywhere. So where are these sites when we need them?

Officials have to remember that the Internet is an "international network". Everyone is part of it, not just the people in the country of the domain/host. Unless they provide a solution to accessing multimedia contents legally to everyone around the world, the first measures of fighting against "piracy" and "copyright infringement" will remain a selfish, hasty, one-sided act.

Again, I am not pro-piracy. I am just someone who wants to listen to The Vaccines.

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